It is important to plan to repel this trend by providing the best possible membership services to preserve the membership growth and momentum after the New Year's rush. If you carefully manage your center you will be pleased with the long-term benefits for your members and your business. It is much easier, smarter and cost effective to retain the members you have than to look for new members.

In my opinion, the best retention program you can ever implement is top-notch service. Contented members over the entire length of their membership will not leave you. When I general managed an 18,000-square-foot executive fitness center in the heart of midtown Manhattan I found that almost all of my exiting members left because of logistical changes in their lives — they either moved out of the area or they changed job locations. The membership at large was extremely content with the club because they had an extraordinary experience and rarely complained about anything. Yet, commentary was always welcome and if a member had to say something, they did so for a reason. The more I listened the better I was able to understand how all perceived the facility. I always tried to teach this to my staff. For example, the receptionists needed to be alert and attentive, the sales director needed to be sharp and make the potential clients feel at home before and after they joined, the laundry staff zealously cleaned every nook and cranny and ensured amenity supplies were always provided and the fitness staff needed to interact and engage with the members.

Smart managers should always keep in mind that improved member satisfaction and retention beyond the New Year's rush ultimately facilitates membership retention and keeps your members coming to your facility.

MANAGING YOUR FACILITY

Properly maintain your facility. Keep it clean, neat and uncluttered. Schedule daily cleanings of exercise equipment, especially cardiovascular equipment. Clean equipment and a neat environment shows you care.

Facilitate an understanding amongst your club members that heavy and crowded club utilization usually works itself out. Create sign-up lists for equipment. Assist in the turnover of the cardiovascular equipment at peak times. Encourage your membership to shift their workout times to an off peak time. Recognize that there is also always a natural shift in workouts from heavy peak usage times to expanded peak usage times when the club is less crowded.

Ensure that your reception area has snap. Your receptionist(s) must be attentive and snap to attention at the moment your members enter their area and don't forget to have them say hello and goodbye as well.

Have your training staff meet with new and existing members on a continual basis to design new workouts or update old workout programs.

Only hire people who will care about the fitness center and the membership. Your membership deserves an attentive and caring staff.

Ultimately, we want members thoroughly satisfied. Satisfied members rival the best marketing programs.

Take time to take care of your members and your members will remain and assist in the acquisition of new members. Consider them as your marketing team. Recognize that they have their own “sales meetings” and come up with schemes to draw in new members. They will often participate in the membership sales process. Their only fee is great service.

Frank Bentkowski is general manager of Exude Inc., a one-on-one and motivational fitness company. He is also a commercial sales representative for Xercise Systems. Contact Frank on the Web at www.bentkowski.com or at frank16e52@aol.com.